28 Songs You Definitely Turned Up To As A Middle Schooler
“Don’t Cha” by The Pussycat Dolls feat. Busta Rhymes
Turn Up Factor: Medium. The Pussycat Dolls were like the Barbie-meets-stripper version of the Spice Girls, and we were HERE for it. With sassy lyrics like “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me,” it was hard not to strut your stuff to this spunky anthem. But face it, you HAD to be the Nicole Scherzinger of your friend group.
“Toxic” by Britney Spears
Turn Up Factor: Fairly high. Britney’s magnum opus isn’t just an iconic music video, it also was a middle school dance staple that STILL holds up to this day. It definitely was a fave of baby gays and tween girls everywhere, and we are eternally grateful to Miss Spears for this jam. The real question is, which Britney is your favorite: blonde, redhead, or brunette?
“Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas
Turn Up Factor: High. Obviously you were jamming to the edited version, because that’s what the DJ would play at your middle school dance. This is the song that introduced us to Will.i.am, Fergie, Taboo, and Apl.de.Ap, and the world would never be the same, for better and for worse.
“Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake
Turn Up Factor: Moderate. Let’s face it, Justified Justin is the best Justin. “Rock Your Body” is the slinky, sexy middle school jam that separated the men from the boys, the ladies from the girls. Bonus points if you could hit the high notes when you were singing along.
“Get the Party Started” by Pink
Turn Up Factor: Very high. Let’s be honest, your definition of “getting the party started” in middle school was getting hopped up on Mountain Dew and sweating like a pig at a middle school dance. Whatever. Pink GOT it, and this party banger was a total turn-up anthem.
“Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne
Turn Up Factor: Lowish. This isn’t a typical middle school turn-up bop, but if we’re being honest, Avril had your head banging. Face it: You totally gathered your friends to dance in a circle for this one, complete with everyone playing the air guitar. WIN.
“Lose Control” by Missy Elliott feat. Ciara and Fatman Scoop
Turn Up Factor: Hella high. Listen, Missy practically shat turn-up bangers in the early 2000s, which made her appearance at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show all the sweeter. This jam totally caused more than its fair share of awkward middle school grinding, and for that, Missy deserves all the pats on the back.
“1, 2 Step” by Ciara feat. Missy Elliott
Turn Up Factor: Very Moderate. Yup, Ciara and Missy again. It’s a little slower, a little slinkier than “Lose Control,” but with a pulsing beat, who really cared? Yeah, you still really don’t know what a “1, 2 Step” is, but you’re too busy trying to forget awkward memories of attempting the dance moves to really care. Amen, Ciara. Amen!
“Milkshake” by Kelis
Turn Up Factor: Pretty high. “LOL, a song about milkshakes!” your middle school self said. How novel! “My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard” was the vaguely sexual, incredibly novel lyric that your 14-year-old self would not stop tossing around. Then you found out what Kelis meant by milkshakes…and your world changed forever. MIND. BLOWN.
“Yeah!” by Usher feat. Ludacris and Lil Jon
Turn Up Factor: Higher than Mount Everest. Wow. If any song says “mid-2000s,” it’s this Hall of Fame turn-up anthem. It’s almost as if the music gods said, “Here, middle schoolers: We know you have acne, and braces, and are going through puberty, so we’ll have Usher record ‘Yeah’ to help make up for it.” And then, we were blessed. Peace up, A-Town!
“Gold Digger” by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
Turn Up Factor: Pretty decent. Listen, even if your Starbucks Frappuccino-sipping, Juicy Couture-wearing self wasn’t capable of actually being a gold digger, you still rocked out to this song. Get down girl, go ‘head, get down!
“Get Low” by Lil Jon feat. Ying Yang Twinz
Turn Up Factor: Maximum. At this point, we probably should bestow Lil Jon with the title of Patron Saint of Middle School Dances. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in churning out the songs that made you rock out as a pimply preteen. Face it, one of the best parts of middle school was chanting out “From the windows, to the walls! Till the sweat runs down my balls” when this song came on.
“The Way You Move” by Outkast feat. Sleepy Brown
Turn Up Factor: Solid. While it may have not been as omnipresent as Outkast’s megahit “Hey Ya!” we are actually thankful for that. It’s slinkier, sexier, and a little more adult — which, of course, was very appealing to our horny middle school selves. This is the perfect jam for a grind with your bae — even if the word “bae” didn’t really exist then.
“Lean Back” by Terror Squad
Turn Up Factor: Awkwardly moderate. Face it, you probably felt pretty badass trying to attempt the “Lean Back,” but looking back on those memories is cringe-inducing (sort of like ALL your middle school memories). This was the middle school turn-up anthem we didn’t deserve, but rocked out to anyway.
“Ride Wit Me” by Nelly feat. City Spud
Turn Up Factor: Low, but a “chill” low. This ain’t no banger, but that’s fine! This is the type of song that came on in your mom’s minivan while she drove you to a middle school dance, and you were so here for it (provided she didn’t switch the radio station). Thanks, Nelly!
“In Da Club” by 50 Cent
Turn Up Factor: Incredibly high. We were probably a little under a decade away from legally partying in da club, but that didn’t mean we weren’t throwing down in our Abercrombie best to this joint. Of course to us middle schoolers, he was Fiddy if you were ~in the know~.
“Pon de Replay” by Rihanna
Turn Up Factor: Pretty damn high. Before there was “We Found Love,” “S & M,” or even “Umbrella,” Rihanna introduced herself to the world with the smash success that was “Pon de Replay.” Who knew this was the first of many bangers she would gift to us, but this one will always hold a special place in our hearts because it will forever be a part of our “cherished” middle school memories. Also, what the hell does the song even MEAN?
“Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
Turn Up Factor: Deceptively low. Listen, we get it: This ain’t no Lil Jon track. But this was the song they played well into your middle school dance, and while you may have been a sweaty mess and your voice was horse, you still shouted ALL the lyrics while you did that awkward shoulder hug thing with your friends. WORD.
“Dirrty” by Christina Aguilera feat. Redman
Turn Up Factor: Filthy high. You were lucky if the middle school DJ played this song at your banger of a dance. But when he did, the dance floor got crazier than Studio 54 in the ‘70s. This song single-handedly ushered a generation of self-conscious tweens through puberty. A round of applause for Xtina, PLEASE, and bonus points for the assless chaps in the music video.
“It’s Like That” by Mariah Carey
Turn Up Factor: Medium-rare. *clap clap clap clap* Even though you didn’t understand half the lyrics at the time (“Purple takin’ me higher”), this Mimi banger was a staple of middle school dances everywhere. Even though she had bigger hits on the album — “Shake It Off” and “We Belong Together,” anyone? — this was the song that got you off your seat and to the middle of the dance floor.
“Lose My Breath” by Destiny’s Child
Turn Up Factor: Pretty damn high. This song lit’rally had you losing your breath as you got crunk on the dance floor. Bey, Kelly, and what’s-her-name were at it again, and boy, did Destiny’s Child not disappoint. THE DRUMS. THE BEAT. THE EVERYTHING.
“Get Right” by Jennifer Lopez
Turn Up Factor: Good, but not great. Yeah, there are more memorable songs from those halcyon middle school days. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t honor the ageless wonder that is J.Lo. This song had your hands in the air, swaying in your spaghetti-strap dress or cargo shorts. Thank you, Jenny from the block.
“Move Ya Body” by Nina Sky feat. Jabba
Turn Up Factor: Randomly pretty high. Fun fact: Nina Sky isn’t a solo artist, but an R&B duo. Pour one out, because they are another one-hit wonder of the 2000s. No matter, because they nailed it with this joint. This was the quintessential jam to be grinding up on your middle school honey, and was the type of song that had middle school chaperones separating awkward makeouts.
“My Love Is Like… Wo” by Mya
Turn Up Factor: Low-ish. This is a slow-grind anthem, the type of song that wound it down for a moment while the sweat cooled off and you caught your breath. This was a more underground ’00s turn-up song, but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.
“Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
Turn Up Factor: B-A-N-A-N-A-S. How could you NOT chant along to this song the whole way through? Gwen Stefani was the blonde pop goddess of the early 2000s, and she dominated airwaves with this banger, even if our 14-year-old selves couldn’t figure out what a hollaback girl really WAS. This shit really WAS bananas.
“Naughty Girl” by Beyoncé
Turn Up Factor: So, so high. Beyoncé’s debut solo album had so many classic middle school jams — “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” come to mind — but “Naughty Girl” just might take the cake here, because it was probably the song your mom was quickest to change when it came on the radio. If only she knew “Partition” was to come…
“What’s Luv” by Fat Joe feat. Ashanti and Ja Rule
Turn Up Factor: Strong moderate. God, Ashanti and Ja Rule were like our generation’s musical Batman and Robin. Throw Fat Joe into the mix, and you have the recipe for a perfect middle school jam. Gotta love it.
“Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland
Turn Up Factor: High, but not too high. Timbaland was the gift that kept giving in the mid-2000s, and “Promiscuous” might be his freshest jam. OK, so being promiscuous in middle school may have been more like having a different crush than the previous week, but whatever. This song rocks.
You can turn up to this full iconic middle school playlist here:
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